I have a great God Story to share with you! So, when you have a few minutes, because this is long, grab a cup of your favorite coffee/tea and read about how God is still in the business of making the "impossible," possible!
"O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago." Isaiah 25:1
This past summer we had a group of 33 high school and college interns serving with us here in Tokyo. Part of this group used a phrase all summer that really struck a chord with me, "God's ancient work." We are all a part of God's ancient work! Think about that for a minute. What God is doing in and through you, He has been doing for years in and through His servants who are willing and obedient to Him. In the verse above, Isaiah even referred to God's ancient work with the phrase, "...things planned long ago." Well, I want to share how God is continuing His ancient work in/through me here in Tokyo, and how He continues to make what seems impossible to the human eye, possible!
Most of you have been partnered with me on this God journey from the beginning, back in March/April 2009. And most of you know that from the time God called me to come to Japan, I believed He was calling me here for 3 years, and then possibly to return as a career missionary. You also know those plans seemed to have changed this time last year when I was told that I could only stay for 2 years, and that a 3rd year was not possible because it would take a "slot" away from someone wanting to come for 2 years. Each time someone in leadership (from my local leadership all the way up the "chain" to Richmond, VA) told me that I would not be allowed to stay beyond 2 years, I told them (and myself), "I am not to trust in horses or chariots, but only in the name of the Lord my God." I didn't know how it would happen but I believed so strongly in my God and the knowledge of what He had called me to do that I tried to keep pressing onward and upward.
Well, as time kept marching on, and with each month that passed, the news from the company did not change. Then I got the news that I was given a three month extension! This put my departure at July 17th instead of April 19th. I was so thrilled that things had changed enough to at least allow me a few more months in the place I have come to love and that I know God has called me to. As I have mentioned in past prayer updates, even with this new departure date, I still couldn't see what was to come beginning July 18th. I knew God was in control, so I never really worried, but I just couldn't "figure out" why God had called me here for three years, but was only allowing me to stay for two.
In the fall, I began to accept that things with the company were not going to change and that I needed to begin preparing myself to return to the States in July. All the time thinking I might could come back to Japan through a different company/job. In fact, I had begun asking about the process of renting an apartment here in the city, thinking that maybe I was suppose to be here a third year, just not with the IMB (International Mission Board). I have had a couple of possible job offers outside of the Board. Although I was staying "open minded" about them, I just was not able to get His perfect peace either.
The weekend of January 8th, the missionaries from Tokyo and north of Tokyo met for our yearly meeting, and our Sub-cluster leader was there too. I have talked with him several times over the past year about my situation, and was able to sit down with him again during this weekend meeting. He again said that as far as he knew things had not changed, and advised me to contact the office in Richmond to see what possible career positions were available for me throughout East Asia, or in other affinity groups (countries/people groups). So, I sent an email to the person responsible for assigning candidates to open positions and asked him what I needed to do to begin the process of applying for a career position. Now, here is where this story gets interesting...
In his reply to me, he asked if I was interested in staying for a third year. He said that there are currently no career jobs on the books for Japan that I qualify for, but staying here a third year might put me in a better position down the road. All that needed to happen was for my supervisor to make an appeal to our affinity leader on my behalf. WHAT?!?!?!?!? I sent the email to my supervisor who was as shocked as I was to read his reply. Come to find out, the concern of a "slot" being taken away from someone else is, for some reason, no longer an issue. Things have somehow changed, and my staying a third year no longer creates that issue. So, the wrestling in my heart began at this point. I knew God had called me here, but I had already begun to accept that I was going "home" in July. I had let my mind shift to returning to the States, which created a challenge for me. What should I do? Where was God in the middle of all of this?
I asked my supervisor to make the appeal and see what our affinity leader's answer would be. If you know anything about a Southern Baptist organization, you know decisions don't always happen quickly! So, I was thinking it would take a month or two for everyone involved to make this decision, and I would have a little more time to process it myself. Well, nope! Less than two days later we got word that I had been approved for a third year of service! On top of that, my supervisor had not even had time to make the official appeal before I was given the approval! What a God thing!!!! Of course I was still struggling with what I should do. I mean, my parents and my friends were all getting ready for me to come "home" in 6 months. How could I come back now I say, "Nope, just kiddin'. I'm staying for another year." Some of you have shared your concerns about how much my parents have missed me, and that was also a part of my struggle. But, once I shared this news with Mom and Dad, their immediate reaction was that of excitement and joy. There was not one second of hesitation on their part, they knew immediately that this was from God and were praising Him for it! I am SO grateful to have parents who are not just supportive of me, and I want to brag on them just a little. They are 110% behind me, and have let me know that even though they do miss me, I can not let that cause me to not follow God's leading and call! I am just too blessed beyond what I deserve! So, those of you concerned about my parents, thank you for caring, and thank you for loving on them in my absence. They need your love, support, prayers, shoulders, and ears. But please understand, they are ok with my being here, because it is where God wants me to be!
Then, God took me to the story of Zechariah and Elisabeth in the book of Luke. In the footnotes from Luke 1:20 of my Bible was the following:
"Zechariah thought it incredible that he and his wife, at their old age, could conceive a child. But what God promises, he delivers. And God delivers on time! You can have complete confidence that God will keep his promises. Their fulfillment may not be the next day, but they will be "at their proper time." If you are waiting for God to answer some request or to fill some need, remain patient. No matter how impossible God's promises may seem, what he has said in his Word will come true at the right time."
Then He took me to the verse at the top of this God story, Isaiah 25:1:
"O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago."
How could I deny God was confirming that He was smack in the middle of my staying in Japan for another year! So, saying all the above to share with you, I have accepted the extension, and will be in Tokyo until April 2012 to continue "God's ancient work" in me, and in Japan! "To God be the glory, great things He hath done!" Thank you so much for being on the journey of faith with me!!! My prayer is that this story from God will be an encouragement, and faith strengthener for you too. If God has called you to something, or promised something that seems impossible in your eyes (or in the eyes of those around you), don't forget what the angel Gabriel said to Mary, "For nothing is impossible with God." Luke 1:37
Thank you for taking a few minutes of your precious time to read this God story. And again, I thank you for praying for/with me and the people of Japan. God is at work in this incredible country, and He is obviously not finished with me here either. As you pray for me and the Japanese, I challenge you to pray the same prayers for yourselves and the people in your neighborhood, work office, or school. In Acts 1:8, Jesus commanded us to begin missions in our "Jerusalem." Whatever city you live in is your "Jerusalem," and that is where missions for you begins. As much as the people in Japan need to hear about Jesus, the people in your city need to hear about Him too. Will you be His hands and feet today in the place where He has planted you? That is what I pray for you!
Until next time, know that I love you and miss you, and am deeply grateful for you!
"I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." Acts 26:17b-18